The “30-Day Writing Challenge”: Day 22

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I came across blogger James Clear’s “Become A Writer” 30 Day Challenge, and thought the idea seemed appealing:

“Because writing each week has been so valuable for me, I want to challenge you to also follow a writing schedule … for the next 30 days. There is no pressure to participate (I’ll return to regular posts on Thursday), but my hope is that this challenge will help you kickstart the consistency that is so important for making long-term progress on your goals.”

He goes on to give a wide range of examples of how the challenge could be done depending on your goals, schedule and preferences. I took a pretty casual approach — just writing whatever came to mind in a notebook right before bed for anywhere from five to 15 minutes.

Today is Day 22. I’m making a slight adjustment and getting in today’s writing on this blog rather than in my notebook. Initially, I had intended to write about it after the 30 days were up so I could reflect on the process in its entirety. And then I had an “aHA” moment–I didn’t have be done with the full 30-day challenge before writing about it. You don’t always have to have a perfect finished product before you publish something or present it to someone for feedback. And sometimes it’s good to stop and reflect throughout the process to build ideas little by little, so that the “final” task doesn’t seem like a daunting masterpiece that has to be completed; instead, it’s just the product of a natural progression of things.

So here are a few of my thoughts, 22 days in:

Creating a concerted “30-Day Challenge” is really helpful in the process of building a habit. I had made a decision to try to start journaling more and follow-up with a few personal story ideas a few months ago. And I sort of started. But the activity slipped as I either got lazy or let other things come up and take priority. Making a challenge or game out of it and creating a dedicated (and realistic!) schedule that you can stick to makes a huge difference.

Start with what you know. Getting things started can be tricky. On Day 1, I struggled with how to begin. I ended up just jotting down what my workout/run was that day first. Once I had something down, it felt like there was less pressure to come up with an incredibly thought-provoking or insightful entry, and pulling from an existing habit (exercise) was useful. I continue to start by jotting down my workout every time, and then it varies after that: thoughts on interesting news articles/stories I’ve come across, reflections on what I did that day or want to do the next day, pieces of story or blog post ideas I keep in the back of my mind, etc. It’s less about the actual end product or outcome and more about building the habit.

Observing how you come back from setbacks. So far, 22 days in, I’ve missed two days. The first time was for careless reasons, and I was frustrated with myself afterwards. I realized it the next day and did a make-up entry as soon as I had a chance. So November 18th includes a Day 12 and Day 13 entry. The second time, I knew I was missing it, and I was okay with that because the reason was valid and worthwhile. And I didn’t feel the need to write a “make-up” entry, so there just is no Day 17 for November 22nd. And it’s nice to accept that. Frameworks and goals are great to keep you motivated and help maintain consistent habits. But it’s also important be able to let go of the “pursuit of perfection” when it hinders progress, and be okay with a temporary break in the routine sometimes.

Overall, it’s been a fun exercise and a helpful tool for incorporating more writing into my daily routine.

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